Hoarding is a form of OCD that affects up to 6% of the population.
When you think of this disorder, your mind may immediately bring up images of the A&E show Hoarders, but not all cases are this severe. Hoarding can start slowly and appear as a harmless collection or a messy lifestyle. But, if left unaddressed, the issue will continue to worsen until safety and health issues arise.
If you know a loved one who appears to be suffering from hoarding, you need to step in and offer your help. Keep reading to discover how to declutter a hoarder’s house and rip off the emotional bandaid
1. Host a Supportive Intervention
Wondering how to help a hoarder clean? The first step is getting them to admit that a problem exists. The most effective way to do this is through an intervention.
Gather friends and loved ones and possibly a professional interventionalist. Every member attending should be prepared to speak about how the hoarding has affected their relationship with the hoarder. It might be best to hold a few rehearsals of what everyone is going to say to ensure that nothing hurtful or counterproductive is shared.
Then, invite the hoarder to join you in a space that they feel comfortable. Ideally, this will be a family member or loved one’s home. Avoid having the intervention at the hoarder’s home because this can cause them to feel cornered and retreat to another room.
Throughout the intervention, be sure that everyone involved tries to remain calm and supportive. This is a time for everyone to offer their help, not accuse or bash the hoarder.
An intervention is only successful if the hoarder verbally accepts your help. If they are not ready to address the problem, try again in a few months.
2. Offer and Gather Help
The support and help shouldn’t stop after the intervention. Depending on the size of the hoarding problem, you may need a rather large team to help clean up the mess. Your team should consist of loved ones who can offer support and help the hoarder through this tough process.
It’s also wise to enlist the help of a hoarding cleanup service, as they deal with these issues frequently. They’ll have the tools and resources to effectively clean up a home quickly.
Just remember not to set your loved one up with a hoarder house cleaning service and disappear. It’s important that they are surrounded by their friends and family members during this difficult process.
3. Assist Them With Creating an Action Plan
Once your loved one had accepted help and a supportive team has been gathered, you’ll want to create a hoarder cleaning checklist together. Looking at the whole home and all the possessions at once can be very overwhelming. Instead, you’ll want to break up the larger project into small chunks.
Choose which rooms you will address first. The most important rooms to clean up are the bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom as these are essential for a normal life. Save places like the living room, basement, or garage for last as these spaces are less important and more likely to hold more possessions.
Once you’ve decided on which room to clean first, you’ll then want to set up a system. The best way to clean up is by laying a tarp outside and having your cleaning service bring all the belongings outside. This clears the space quickly and makes it easier for everyone to move around.
4. Create Keep, Sell, Donate, and Trash Piles
Once you have the room cleared and all the possessions in one space, you’ll want to create keep, sell, donate, and trash piles. This will likely be the hardest step for the hoarder as they’ll have to decide to part ways with their possessions. To keep them calm, have them sit down in a chair and instruct others as to where each item should go.
Each person on your team should choose a specific item to tackle, such as books, clothing, trash, or electronics. Then, ask the hoarder to make a decision about each individual item.
You’ll want them to make a decision quickly so that they don’t have time to overthink it. But, you don’t want to move too quickly so that they become overwhelmed and retreat from the exercise. It’s a thin line to balance.
5. Once Decisions Are Made, Remove Items Immediately
Once the hoarder makes a decision about a certain item, place it into the appropriate pile immediately. Don’t give them time to second guess their decisions.
It’s also important that your clean-up crew doesn’t let these piles accumulate too much. If your hoarder glances over and sees a full trash dumpster or a large donate pile, they may become emotional and want to stop the process. Instead, make sure that these items are being removed from the property as soon as decisions are made.
6. Keep Them Involved Every Step of the Way
The most important of the decluttering tips for hoarders is to keep them involved in every step of the way.
Don’t try to make decisions about their possessions for them. If you feel like they are keeping too many belongings, have them go through the pile an additional time before items are moved inside. Don’t ever let them feel like they have lost control of the situation.
Also, let your loved one know that since they make all the decisions, they can also take breaks as needed. This process can be painful, and emotional breaks from the hard decisions can make the overall process easier on them.
Cleaning up a Hoarder’s House Doesn’t Happen Overnight
After reading through these steps, it’s easy to see that cleaning up a hoarder’s house won’t happen overnight.
Throughout the process, remember to keep in mind that hoarding is often caused by deeper underlying mental health issues. After you get the home cleaned up, the support and help shouldn’t stop there. Invite your loved one to visit a therapist and support them through this journey.
Not quite sure how to support someone suffering from mental illness? Visit the Health and Wellness section of this site for the best advice.